Archive for June, 2011

LOS BANOS, Calif. (AP) — Agents have dismantled a San Joaquin Valley branch of a notorious Northern California gang with ties to the state’s prisoners and Mexican drug cartels, arresting 101 suspected members and raiding more than 50 properties, authorities announced Wednesday.

The gang, Nuestra Familia, is often controlled from within the California prison system, where authorities estimate 2,000 of the state’s 162,000 inmates are formal members. Leaders use smuggled cell phones, messengers and other means to direct tens of thousands of street-level Norteno gang members involved in drug trafficking and violent crime in Northern California’s farm towns.

Nuestra Familia — “our family” in Spanish — is “one of the most vicious and lethal gangs in our state, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The crackdown this week by more than 300 state, federal and local agents was the fifth, and by far the largest, sweep in two years targeting gang members from the Central Valley to the central coast. Authorities say they have captured much of the gang’s street leadership, cutting off its income and communications.

“We’ve targeted the regiment commanders,” said John Silveira, a special agent with the attorney general’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement in Fresno. “This is like the last of the bunch. We’ve hit them hard. I feel we’re really making an impact.”

The arrests Tuesday included the two street commanders who controlled operations in Madera and Merced counties, including Gonzalo “Gunner” Esquivel in the farming community of Dos Palos.

Agents stormed his one-story home next to a cotton field in the town about 140 miles southeast of San Francisco, breaking down the door with a 50-pound battering ram as a surveillance helicopter swooped overhead just before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Eight agents in body armor and carrying automatic weapons found the 30-year-old still in bed.

The nylon shorts he pulled on had $1,155 in the pockets, while a drug-sniffing dog led agents to another $3,300 in a cell phone box tucked in a drawer.

The six-foot-tall, 300-pound Esquivel, his body covered in gang symbols and tattoos of women, was one of eight defendants secretly indicted by a federal grand jury before his arrest. He was set to appear in federal court in Fresno on Wednesday. He declined to talk to investigators and made no mention of having a lawyer.

“Literally, they’ve been terrorizing these two counties,” Harris said.

Silveira said agents arrested the second street commander, Felipe Gutierrez, 36, of Madera, as he drove a produce truck Tuesday near Fresno. Silveira called him the “highest-ranking NF that we know of on the outside” of prison.

Gutierrez and Esquivel each were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine.

“I really do believe we have dismantled the leadership of two major regiments of this gang,” Harris said.

Arrest warrants were issued for alleged gang members on charges of suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated mayhem, felons possessing firearms, drug trafficking, and participating in a criminal street gang. All but three were in custody by Tuesday night, including four juveniles, with the youngest being 14.

The raids also yielded 27 weapons, including eight assault weapons; $64,000 in cash, including $25,000 at one residence; roughly 2.5 pounds of methamphetamine and another half-pound of crystal methamphetamine; 34 marijuana plants and about a half-pound of marijuana.

Authorities say the gang sent packages containing marijuana to members in the Madera County Jail in April. When they discovered their smuggler took some of the drugs, he was stabbed. Underage members were linked to four separate shootings and one stabbing in Los Banos around the same time.

U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner called the raids “the latest step in a sustained campaign to put a hammer” on the gang members, whom he said “have been spreading a wave of crime up and down the Central Valley.”

Investigators said the gang created false paperwork for vehicles used to smuggle at least 20 pounds of methamphetamine across the Mexican border and into the San Joaquin Valley. The valley was once known for biker gangs and, later, Mexican gangs that set up volatile methamphetamine laboratories that eventually supplied much of the country.

John Donnelly, the agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Fresno office, said new U.S. laws and crackdowns on the raw materials used to make the highly addictive stimulant have pushed production into Mexico and other countries where bulk ingredients can be obtained more easily.

Money from street-level drug sales worked its way to the prison-based leadership and Mexican drug connections, said Special Agent Michelle Gregory of the attorney general’s Division of Law Enforcement.

“There is no question there is a connection with the cartels in Mexico and the crime we’re seeing on the streets in California,” said Harris, who was elected last year and has made confronting multinational gangs a priority for her office. “They need to know we are watching them and we will take them out.

PEKIN, Ill. — Meth chefs have made their way back into Pekin, honing their skills so that their chemical potions are easier and faster to cook.

There have been two methamphetamine lab busts in less than three weeks in residential areas of the city — one on May 20 by Pekin police and a new one Friday by the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group.

In Friday’s raid, two Pekin residents were arrested when MEG, the Illinois State Police SWAT team and Pekin police executed a search warrant at 210 Cooper St. Officers seized a working meth lab, methamphetamine and two firearms.

MEG officials declined to give further information about the arrests.

Arrested were Travis A. Zimmerman, 28, and Angela Mitson, 31, both of the Cooper Street address, for unlawful possession of firearms by a felon and the unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine.

Zimmerman and Mitson are being held on a federal warrant without bond at the Tazewell County Justice Center. Federal charges are pending.

Under federal law, the offense of conspiracy to manufacture meth carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, meth manufacture a sentence of five to 40 years in prison and possession of meth equipment a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Possession of firearms by a felon carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, while possession of firearms in relation to a drug-trafficking crime carries a mandatory sentence of five years in prison which must be served consecutive to any other prison sentence.

Four people were arrested and then charged in the May 20 raid — Stephanie L. Hutchinson, 25, of 211 N. 10th. St., Pekin; Erik G. Follis, 32, of 2007 Windsor St., Pekin; Michelle R. Lowe, 30, of 1912 Karo, Pekin; and Randy L. Potts, 28, of 116 Calumet Road, Marquette Heights. All were charged with aggravated participation in methamphetamine manufacturing, a Class X felony, which is punishable by six to 30 years in prison. All four were indicted by a Tazewell County grand jury on June 2.

Pekin Police Detective Seth Ranney said that the department is seeing more activity on the meth lab front in Pekin.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of labs seized and in the amount of information gathered from witnesses and suspects,” said Ranney. “I know the numbers are up, but I am not sure by what percentage.”

While typically meth cooks will take their labs out into the countryside during the warmer months to avoid detection, the latest two busts have been inside apartments or homes. Recipes have changed to allow for faster cooking.

“People get comfortable with things and to keep it indoors,” said Ranney.

One of the biggest tools police have to work with is local retailers. Pharmacies keep track of the amount of pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth — purchased by individuals. Other retailers call police when people purchase large amounts of items used to make meth such as red phosphorous matches, Heet, lye and tincture of iodine, said Ranney.

Ingredients for the manufacture of meth have changed over the years, changing the odor given off during the cooking process, said Ranney. In the past people often referred to it as the smell of cat urine or ammonia. That’s not always the case now, said Ranney.

Ranney said that a meth lab may be present if there is a strong chemical smell. Each batch may smell differently, because of the combination of chemicals used. A lot of traffic to and from a residence may also be an indicator of a meth house.

Tazewell meth history

Tazewell County was at the height of the meth war when the Operation Rattlesnake Task Force was formed in February 2003. As a result of the task force’s work, 22 area residents were charged federally by May 2004. Others followed. One of the conspirators was Kenneth Zimmerman, 26 at the time, of Delavan. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. It is not known if Travis and Kenneth are related.

Kenneth Zimmerman manufactured 6,581.35 grams of meth, an amount so large that federal sentencing rules required U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade to impose a mandatory life sentence.

SPRING HILL – Not all of the drugs made it down the drain.

During a search warrant Tuesday, deputies arrested a woman who tried to hide her methamphetamine pipes by flushing them down the toilet, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Kelly Marie Crawford, 39, of 3316 Stephens Blvd., was apprehended shortly after 3 p.m. while she was standing in the hallway of her home in front of her bathroom, deputies said.

A search of her bathroom revealed “multiple broken glass pipes containing methamphetamine residue in the toilet,” according to an arrest report.

During her interview, Crawford disclosed she had tried to flush a meth pipe down the toilet moments before law enforcement arrived, deputies said.

Four more people were arrested in connection with the drug sting.

Among the items seized were 35 oxycodone tablets, several other types of prescription drugs, multiple meth pipes, laptops, a fake driver’s license, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and one spring-loaded knife, according to the sheriff’s office.

Crawford, as well as Anthony Fontaine, 42, Seth Heiser, 38, and Heather Miller, 33, were charged with destruction of evidence and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Fontaine, Heiser and Miller also were accused of flushing their meth pipes down the toilet.

Additionally, Crawford was charged with resisting arrest without violence and possession of a fake driver’s license. Deputies said she also had outstanding warrants out of New Hampshire.

Fontaine also was charged with violation of probation. A records check revealed he had been convicted of burglary.

James Norris, 48, also was arrested during the execution of the search warrant. He originally was arrested last week during another drug raid at a house off Pike Avenue, deputies said.

Norris had the spring-loaded knife in his back pocket and was charged with possession of a concealed weapon. His Harley Davidson also was seized, deputies said.

Norris had been out on bond for one day prior to his arrest Tuesday, according to the sheriff’s office.

Methamphetamine was discovered in various areas of the house besides the toilet, deputies said.

Pipes with drug residue were found in the kitchen and inside a dresser in one of the bedrooms, according to arrest reports.

An investigation into the discovery of various pharmaceutical drugs at the home is ongoing.

Police allege guns, detonation cord and cash have been found at a clandestine drug laboratory in Adelaide’s north-eastern suburbs.

Officers raided premises in Gorge Road at Athelstone on Wednesday night.

They allegedly found a large quantity of what was believed to be methamphetamine and cocaine.

Drug Investigation Branch officers have gone to the premises for further investigation.

A man, 37, from Mawson Lakes has been charged with manufacturing a controlled drug and with firearms offences.

Playboy Playmate Suzanne Stokes – Miss February 2000 – was tossed behind bars in L.A. this morning after cops say the actress was carrying meth in her car.

According to law enforcement sources, cops initially stopped the 31-year-old Stokes around 12:30 AM for blowing through a stop sign in Hollywood.

But during the stop, cops learned there was an active warrant for Stokes arrest stemming from a previous traffic violation. Cops then performed a search of Stokes’ car and found methamphetamine.

Stokes was arrested and taken to a nearby jail – where she was booked on a felony drug possession charge.

Stokes was released moments after posting the $11,000 bail.

KINGSFORD HEIGHTS, Ind. — Authorities say a 3-year-old girl was seriously injured by drinking liquid from a suspected methamphetamine cooking operation at a northern Indiana home.

LaPorte County police say the girl was taken to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for treatment after emergency crews were called to the home in the town of Kingsford Heights on Friday. The initial report was of a girl swallowing something and being burned.

The Times of Munster reports the LaPorte County prosecutor is considering formal charges against two adults who live at the home.

LaPorte County metro operations coordinator Tim Shortt says the girl apparently was visiting the home and her mother was somewhere nearby. He says ingredients typically used in a meth lab were found at the home and are being tested.

The last defendant in a smuggling ring responsible for bringing pounds of methamphetamine to the area from Mexico pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Lynchburg.

The three from Dodge City, Kan., were arrested in the Lowesville area of Amherst County on Dec. 7 with a pound of methamphetamine.

Lt. Greg Turner of the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office said the drugs seized that day were part of a two-pound package.

“The first pound was dropped off in Kansas while these three defendants were en route here,” Turner said. “It is believed the meth was manufactured in Mexico and was smuggled into Arizona.”

During Wednesday morning’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bassford explained how drug investigators with the sheriff’s office used a confidential informant to set up the bust. Bassford said the informant had already gotten one pound of methamphetamine from the smugglers and offered to get another.

Marisela Sierra, 35, was the last to plead guilty to a charge of conspiring to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. Co-defendants Rene Humberto Reyna, 51, and Otoniel Carrasco Rivera, 37, pleaded guilty to the same charge in May.

Bassford said Reyna was the leader of the group and would split off from them to pick up the drugs in Arizona. Rivera would ride with Sierra, sometimes on a bus, as security while Sierra was responsible for actually carrying the drugs.

“She admitted doing this once before,” the prosecutor said.

Sierra, Reyna and Rivera were arrested by investigators from Amherst and Rockbridge counties. The case was turned over to federal authorities, Turner said, because of the cross-state trafficking and because investigators believed the drugs originated outside of the United States.

Bassford said Amherst County wasn’t just another waypoint for the drugs on the way to somewhere else.

“Absolutely I believe it was being distributed locally,” he said.

He also explained there is somewhat of a geographical divide in methamphetamine trafficking in Virginia. It may be unusual here to catch traffickers moving pound-size quantities, he said, but he regularly prosecutes such cases from jurisdictions west of Lynchburg such as Carroll County.

Bassford said the wholesale price of a pound of methamphetamine is about $15,000. At about $100 per gram, the street value is closer to $45,000, Turner said.

Bassford commended local authorities and federal investigators on their cooperation.

Sierra, Reyna and Rivera are jailed without bond pending a sentencing hearing set for Sept. 7. Their conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million.

SANDPOINT — A Sagle man convicted of rape and felony drug charges was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday.

Dean Duane Stevens Jr. did not appear to react when 1st District Judge Steve Verby imposed the sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl in July 2009.

Verby said he was not imposing the life sentence due to animosity or hatred of the defendant.

“I’m looking at how to protect society,” Verby told Stevens.

Stevens, 40, was charged with rape, kidnapping and delivery of methamphetamine. Stevens entered Alford pleas to the rape and drug charges, which meant he took no moral responsibility for the crimes, but believed he would be convicted if tried.

In exchange for the pleas, the kidnapping charge was dismissed.

Stevens continued to profess his innocence at sentencing.

“I did not rape her. There was nothing forcible about anything,” he said.

Stevens admitted offering the teen money to pose for nude photographs at a run-down shack in Samuels where the alleged sexual assault took place.

Chief Public Defender Isabella Robertson urged the court for mercy and recommended five- to 20-year concurrent sentences for both charges. She said Stevens would benefit from sex offender treatment and could still be a productive member of society.

Stevens’ sister took the stand and testified that her brother spent some of his formative years living with Gloria White, a colorful Boundary County figure known for embracing those who had little regard for societal norms and laws. White, who died this year at the age of 69, once harbored convicted spy Christopher John Boyce after he escaped from a federal lockup in 1980 and began robbing banks.

Boyce was the basis of “The Falcon and the Snowman,” a 1985 film which starred Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn.

If Idaho’s rape law parsed out offenses in degrees of heinousness, Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall said Stevens’ conduct would fall at the far end of the spectrum. He said Stevens tricked the girl into going to the cabin, plied her with meth and forcibly raped her.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat this case at all,” said Marshall, who recommended concurrent sentences of 25-to-life for rape and 10-to-20 years for the drug charge.

The courtroom fell silent as Verby reviewed Stevens’ presentence investigation, the results of a polygraph exam and a psychosexual evaluation.

The documents, Verby said, indicated Stevens was not entirely forthcoming about his sexual deviancy and was considered a moderate to high recidivism risk. The reports indicated Stevens had been a heavy drug user since his early teens and had exchanged narcotics for sexual favors with underage prostitutes while living in California.

Moreover, Stevens committed the latest offenses while awaiting sentencing in a sex abuse case involving another Bonner County teen. Verby held that the cases were “strikingly similar” in that Stevens appeared to be preying on vulnerable girls.

“You have shown that the rules that apply to anybody else do not apply to you,” said Verby.

After imposing the fixed life sentence, Verby tacked on a 15- to 25-year sentence on the drug charge. That sentence runs consecutively to the life sentence.

Robertson said her client would seek post-conviction relief and will appeal the sentence because the evaluations indicated Stevens would be a better candidate for release after sexual offender treatment and about 20 years of incarceration.

“He would be safer for release after he turns 60 years old,” Robertson said after the hearing.

It’s the first time Verby has imposed a fixed life term since being elected to the bench in 2002.

A former resident of Ventura pleaded guilty on Monday to giving methamphetamine to eight minors and two counts of having sex with a minor.

Thomas Seaton Gibson, 42, will go to trial in Ventura County Superior Court today for allegedly possessing child pornography.

Gibson, who now lives in Orange County, pleaded guilty on Monday to eight counts of supplying methamphetamine to a minor, involving eight victims; one count of child endangerment involving a relative; one count of unlawful intercourse with a minor, and one count of oral copulation with a minor.

In a related-crime, Gibson will go on trial today for one count of possession of child pornography.

Prosecutor Cynthia Nguyen said one of the named victims was a relative of the defendant and the other victims were all acquainted through high school. “They met through casual introduction,” she said.

The victims ranged in age from 15 to 17 and the crimes occurred in 2007 and 2008, said Nguyen.

She said Gibson will be sentenced later on the felony crimes he pleaded guilty to on Monday. Nguyen said he is facing up to 33 years in prison on those charges.

Nguyen said Ventura Police Department officers found that Gibson was involved in numerous incidents, and it was difficult to pinpoint dates and the exact chronology.

“There were different occasions. There were configurations of who was present on each separate occasion. We are not even sure how many occasions there actually were,” she said.

Gibson chose not to have the remaining possession of child pornography allegation tried by a jury. So Judge Patricia Murphy will preside over the matter. If Gibson is convicted on the child pornography charge, Nguyen said Gibson could get an additional eight months behind bars.

“We don’t have any evidence that there was any dispersing of the alleged porn,” she said.

Nguyen said the crimes were discovered when one of the victims came forward and police were contacted. She said police executed a search warrant in this case.

Nguyen said parents should be aware of who their children are hanging around with.

“Talk to your kids. Meet some of the people they are hanging with and don’t be afraid to parent. If you don’t like what you see, you should do something about it,” she said. “These are kids. We don’t trust them to make well reasoned decisions. That’s why they have their parents.”

Gibson’s lawyer, Brian Vogel, couldn’t be reached for comment today.

EDMOND — Last month, officers arrested two adults and found two children — and allegedly meth — in a car parked at an Edmond 7-Eleven.

In February, Del City police found meth and drug paraphernalia in an RV that had burned; three children died. Two adults have been charged with, among other things, three counts of felony child neglect and possession of meth.

Meth lab seizures dropped significantly between 2004 and 2008 when Oklahoma placed meth’s key ingredient, Pseudoephedrine, inside pharmacies instead of purchasing it over the counter. A new recipe using smaller quantities of Pseudoephedrine let meth cooks get around existing state law.

The number of meth labs seized in the state has risen from 149 in 2007 to 818 in 2010, a statistic likely to be topped again this year, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. More children also are being endangered, Woodward said.

“Clandestine methamphetamine manufacturing in Oklahoma is rising at an alarming rate,” OBN Director Darrell Weaver said.

That trend and related societal issues have inspired a conference on drug endangered children Thursday and Friday at the Nigh University Center on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.

The OBN is partnering with National Drug Court Institute, the Oklahoma State Health Department & National Drug Endangered Children Training and Advocacy Center.

On Thursday, the meth-specific training will focus on managing meth users in the community. Day two will focus on identifying, developing and planning for drug endangered children teams.

Each day, registration will be at 8 a.m., followed by a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. training session. Space is limited to the first 250 people.

Woodward said individuals from any agency or individual that works as part of a drug court, who works in substance abuse and the mental health field, case managers and first responders are among those who would benefit from attending.

Others include probation officers, child welfare workers, doctors or nurses working as part of child welfare cases, prosecutors, educators and anyone who will be addressing or responding to situations that involve meth or drug endangered children.

Edmond Police spokeswoman Glynda Chu said this type of information is extremely helpful, especially when it is free.

“This is a great opportunity, and we are fortunate to have OBN providing this important training to personnel directly involved with situations where drugs and children and involved,” Chu said.

Woodward said children living in or spending time in places where meth is being made are exposed to toxic chemical contamination as well as the possibility of fire and explosion. Children also are at increased risk for developing serious problems in their own lives including substance abuse problems. Maternal use of meth may result in related issues.

Experts also say children living at meth labs or with meth-using adults are at increased risk for severe neglect, and children may witness violence or be forced to participate in violence.

Other meth associated costs to society include lab clean up and remediation, drug treatment and Oklahoma has lost six law enforcement officers in meth-related incidents since 1999, Woodward said.

DAKOTA CITY — Standing before three judges, who could sentence him to death, Melecio Camacho-De Jesus’ voice quivered Tuesday as he accepted responsibility for the brutal rape and murder of a South Sioux City toddler.

Dressed in a black and white striped jumpsuit, Camacho-De Jesus clutched a statement in his hands that he had written. He didn’t plead for his life in the Dakota County District courtroom, but apologized to Evelyn Verdugo Paniagua’s parents.

“If I could roll back the clock and correct my errors I would do so with all my heart,” the Mexican national said in Spanish through an interpreter.

Evelyn’s father, Leonardo Verdugo, held his head in his hands, as her mother, Brisa Paniagua, wiped tears from her eyes.

Defense attorney Todd Lancaster presented evidence and testimony for nearly 6 hours at the mitigation hearing in effort to convince the 3-judge panel to sentence his client to a lifetime in prison instead of death by lethal injection.

Last July, a Dakota County jury found the 31-year-old guilty of first-degree murder. The same jury who convicted Camacho-De Jesus convened immediately after his trial for an aggravation hearing, where it determined circumstances existed that warranted seeking the death penalty.

Prosecutors and police said Camacho-De Jesus climbed through a window of Evelyn’s family’s mobile home on May 23, 2009, then raped and killed the child.

Defense attorneys argue that Camacho-De Jesus was under the influence of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol at the time of the crime and didn’t understand the nature and consequences of his actions.

Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Corey O’Brien said in opening statements Tuesday that Camacho-De Jesus selected Evelyn, a helpless victim, who was asleep in the same bed with her older brother.

“We believe he picked the weakest, most vulnerable child to assault. He sought out the most easily available target,” O’Brien said.

Judges Robert B. Ensz, William T. Wright and John P. Murphy will review evidence presented Tuesday, as well as arguments from both sides, which are to be submitted by July 1.

Sentencing is expected to be pronounced at a hearing to be held before Aug. 1.

Maria del Carmen Mendoza-Pulido, dressed in a green shirt, her long dark hair pulled back, asked that her husband’s life be spared in a videotaped statement that was played in court.

Camacho-De Jesus glanced at the TV, then hung his head and closed his eyes.

Mendoza-Pulido, who lives in San Luis Rey — a town across the border from Yuma, Ariz. — said she still loves Camacho-De Jesus, the father of her three sons.

“I would like them to pardon him,” she said in Spanish. “I don’t want them to kill my husband.”

Mendoza-Pulido said Camacho-De Jesus was a “very happy” person who was also whistling and singing. He rarely got angry, but when he did, she said he would go outside and kick a ball.

While he was living and working in the United States, Mendoza-Pulido said Camacho-De Jesus regularly sent money to support his family and called every day to talk to her and the children.

“What he did, I think he did it because he wasn’t well,” she said. “He’s not like that.”

Mendoza-Pulido corroborated earlier testimony from Scott Bresler, a clinical psychiatrist, who conducted a forensic psychiatric evaluation on Camacho-De Jesus in Sept. 2010.

Bresler testified that Camacho-De Jesus told him that he grew up in extreme poverty, was beaten by his mother, and sexually assaulted by a family friend and an older adolescent.

He dropped out of school in the second grade and went to work on the subway as a clown, selling bubble gum and peanuts to earn money for his family.

In his early 20s, Camacho De-Jesus developed an addiction to alcohol and later methamphetamine. He also used cocaine, marijuana and other stimulants.

Bresler said Camacho-De Jesus moved into Evelyn’s family’s South Sioux City trailer a few weeks before the murder in effort to turn his life around, but the pull of addiction was too great and he moved out.

Camacho-De Jesus climbed through a window in the early morning hours of May 23, and assaulted Evelyn, before prosecutors say he killed her to conceal the crime or his identity as the alleged perpetrator.

Tucson, Arizona – The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Arizona Joint Field Command is reporting the seizure of approximately 24,275 pounds of narcotics with an estimated value of more than $14.5 million and the apprehension of 2,647 illegal aliens at the Arizona border for the period of May 23-29.

The narcotics seizures consisted of more than 24,020 pounds of marijuana, nearly three pounds of heroin, nearly 37 pounds of methamphetamines and 216 pounds of cocaine. CBP also intercepted $1,940 in illegal outbound currency, four pistols, three rifles, 21 rounds of ammunition, and seized 31 vehicles used for illicit purposes.

Since launching the Southwest Border Initiative in March 2009, the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Janet Napolitano has engaged in an unprecedented effort to bring focus and intensity to Southwest border security, coupled with a reinvigorated, smart and effective approach to enforcing immigration laws in the interior of our country.

The Joint Field Command integrates the combined assets of the Tucson and Yuma Border Patrol Sectors, the Office of Field Operations Tucson Field Office, and the Office of Air and Marine’s Tucson and Yuma Air Branches, enabling CBP leadership in the Arizona area of operations to direct an integrated approach to our mission of border security, commercial enforcement and trade facilitation.

SEDONA, Ariz. – Detectives with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office have busted a meth and cocaine dealing operation in the Verde Valley and arrested three people, two of whom are in the country illegally.

After a month-long investigation, detectives arrested 40-year-old Aniceto Garcia Ramon, who is suspected of selling large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine in the area.

When Ramon was arrested he was in possession of 20 baggies of meth weighing 3 ounces and a baggie of cocaine weighing about 12 grams, detectives say.

Deputies also arrested his wife, 37-year-old Lina Jaimes-Tenorio. They seized numerous fake identification cards and $2,000 in drug profits, as well as two vehicles.

Both Ramon and Jaimes-Tenorio are illegal immigrants, unemployed and receiving public benefits, YCSO says.

Ramon is facing a number of drug-related charges, forgery, and identity theft. Jaimes-Tenorio is facing forgery and identity theft charges.

While searching the home, a third person arrived and became confrontational with detectives. 47-year-old Leslie Jay Palmer was arrested for possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and DUI-drugs.

LAREDO, TX .- A new shipment of methamphetamine was captured by federal authorities in this area.

The report stated that agents of the State Department of Public Safety (DPS) arrested the occupant of a vehicle on a traffic violation at Highway 35 on mile 24.

The state trooper noticed the man becoming nervous and when they checked the unit packages, a total of 53 kilos of methamphetamine were found, which were hidden in a suitcase of clothes.

The unit driver, whose name was not reported, admitted carrying narcotics to and was expected to be paid 10,000 dollars.

He was turned over to DEA agents to continue investigations.

JAMESTOWN — Two people out “collecting rocks” in Tuolumne County were found to be carrying a little more than just some stones.

Two Manteca residents were found with marijuana, methamphetamine and more before their arrest Monday night near a Tuolumne County rock quarry, authorities said.

At about 7:30 p.m., Deputy Paul Speers of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department was patrolling the area near Sierra Rock Products, Inc., on Highway 108 near Jamestown. Numerous thefts had been reported there recently, according to Sgt. Jeff Wilson, a department spokesman.

Speers saw a black Ford Ranger inside the quarry driveway with nobody inside.

He soon was approached by Jeanette Gutierrez, 50, who was carrying a canvas bag. She told Speers she was “collecting pretty rocks.”

He eventually searched Gutierrez, and found a small amount of meth in her pocket. She told Speers she was wearing someone else’s pants.

Speers noticed a second set of footprints near the truck and called for a backup unit.

When Deputy Frank DeRocher arrived, he began searching the area and found Richard Taberna, 44, hiding behind a tractor.

He had jewelry, meth and drug paraphernalia in his pockets. The deputies searched the pickup and found nearly four grams of marijuana.

Taberna and Gutierrez were arrested and booked into Tuolumne County Jail on charges of possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy, loitering on private property, petth theft, marijuana possession and possession of stolen property.

A 30-year-old Brownsville woman remains in federal custody after she was accused trying to transport more than six pounds of methamphetamine across the Veterans International Bridge.

Authorities reported Samantha Marie Frye allegedly hid the methamphetamine inside some canned goods she was carrying across the international bridge on Sunday.

Frye appeared Monday before U.S. Magistrate Ronald G. Morgan on a count of possession with intent to distribute 6.4 pounds of methamphetamine.

Bond was denied and Frye was turned over to the custody of U.S. Marshals. A detention hearing has been scheduled from Thursday.

According to an U.S. Customs and Border Protection press release, CBP officers at the bridge came in contact with Frye as she was riding in a commercial bus attempting to cross the bridge.

Frye was sent to a secondary inspection area so her baggage could be checked and officers found five food cans filled with the drugs.

The Brownsville woman was turned over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigation special agents for further investigation. CPB officers seized the methamphetamine.

The drugs have an estimated street value of $102,400

A small methamphetamine laboratory was found this morning in Stockertown after authorities were summoned to investigate a “suspicious device incident,” Pennsylvania State Police at Belfast said.

When authorities got to the 300 block of Main Street they found a water bottle containing items used to manufacture methamphetamine, police said. No one has been arrested in connection with the incident and no injuries were reported.

The incident drew local, state and federal authorities to Stockertown, the second such response in three months. The incident began about 7 o’clock when someone saw a plastic bottle that was fizzing and briefly on fire. It was found next to a trash container near a convenience store, but no property damage was reported, police said.

After several hours, the area was cleared and deemed to be safe.

The Bethlehem bomb squad, the Allentown Fire Department, Lehigh County HazMat and Forks Township Fire Department were all investigating. Police said agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called to assist.

In April, federal authorities were called to Stockertown after a bomb scare prompted authorities to evacuate three homes. Robert Perry was charged in that incident and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 29.

ELDRIDGE, Iowa — Suspicious activity drew police to a downtown apartment Monday where they discovered ingredients for making methamphetamine and later made an arrest of a nearby resident.

Eldridge police had received complaints of suspicious activity in the second-floor apartment at 202 W. Davenport St., with another tip Monday, Chief Dave Kopatich said. The apartment had been vacant.

Quad-City Metropolitan Enforcement Group agents, with Eldridge police, arrived at the scene about 12:30 p.m. Officers removed an unidentified powder and unidentified liquid as well as Coleman fuel and lithium batteries from the apartment.

The investigation led to the arrest of Brandon R. Bruner, 39, of 204 W. Davenport St., Eldridge. He was charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony, and two counts of child endangerment, an aggravated misdemeanor.

Police said they learned during the investigation that two children, ages 6 and 13, were in the residence.

The investigation is continuing.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) – A man suffered severe burns after a methamphetamine lab exploded in the basement of his home.

The 30-year-old Kalamazoo resident is in stable condition at a hospital, after receiving treatment to his burned hands and arms.

He was cooking meth in the 1300 block of N. Park Street when the lab exploded around 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, igniting the home on fire, according to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

When rescue personnel arrived, they saw the man lying in the street. They tended to his injuries and extinguished the blaze, which was contained to the basement of the home.

Two bystanders — a 33-year-old woman and a 13-year-old male — were arrested at the scene after getting into an altercation, police said.

A Fort Smith firefighter was arrested Sunday, accused of battering his wife and being in possession of methamphetamine.

John M. Bolton was arrested at his residence in the first block of Prestwick Court on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, felony level endangering the welfare of a minor and misdemeanor level third-degree domestic battery, according to a police report.

Officer Jason Thompson of the Fort Smith Police Department was dispatched to Bolton’s residence after a third party contacted the Police Department and reported that Bolton’s ex-wife Amanda had called him and begged him to call the police. The third party also reported that he could hear a man in the background threatening Amanda Bolton. When Thompson arrived at the scene, he found Amanda Bolton standing at the east side of the duplex and appeared to be visibly upset, according to the report.

“Amanda was crying uncontrollably and I observed red marks on the outside of both her arms between her shoulders and elbows and I also noticed a red mark on her chest below her neck,” Thompson stated in the report.

Amanda Bolton told Thompson that her ex-husband was inside the residence with their young child and that she had been at the residence for a couple days because she does not trust her ex-husband’s ability to care for their child, the report states.

Amanda Bolton said she noticed that John Bolton was in a “bad mood” while holding their child, and she began to gather some things to leave. She said he became angry and, while still holding their child, grabbed her by the arms and threw against a wall and onto the ground. She said he wrestled with her on the ground and slapped her on the arm, the report states.

Amanda Bolton said that during the struggle, she managed to grab the child away from her ex-husband, but he ultimately pulled the child from her grasp and forced her out of the residence and locked the door, the report states.

While speaking with Amanda Bolton, Thompson was told that John Bolton had choked her a few days prior and that she had a protection order against him, according to the report.

“Amanda said that John was in the residence with their child and that there were weapons inside,” Thompson stated. “(She) said John also told her that if she left, he would kill her.”

Thompson attempted to contact John Bolton by knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell.

Other officers were called to the scene and a perimeter was set up around the duplex. Sgt. Chris Harris attempted to contact Bolton by cell phone, but to no avail. Thompson stated in the report that at this time he contacted a dispatcher and confirmed that Amanda Bolton had obtained a protection order against John Bolton and that Bolton was known to be violent and sometimes armed.

After clearing out residents from the neighboring duplex, Thompson went to the rear of the duplex to secure the perimeter. He states that he heard the glass door slide open and someone step outside.

“I drew my service weapon and ordered the subject to show their hands,” Thompson stated.

John Bolton appeared with the child in his arms. Thompson ordered Bolton to put the child down and put his hands up. Bolton placed the child down, but did not raise his hands; instead, he tried to talk to Thompson. After further verbal commands from Thompson, Bolton complied and went to the ground and was taken into custody and transported to the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center, according to the report.

Bolton was placed on paid administrative leave from the Fort Smith Fire Department on Monday, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Already doomed to die in prison, a convicted killer on Monday made a last-minute decision to take a plea deal in a related armed encounter with former Knox County Commissioner Greg “Lumpy” Lambert.

With prospective jurors waiting in the hallway, defense attorney Richard Gaines announced in Knox County Criminal Court that Kane Stackhouse would take a deal he earlier had rejected and admit he pointed a gun at Lambert in a bid to steal a getaway car from Lambert’s Clinton Highway car dealership.

As part of the deal, brokered by Gaines and Assistant District Attorney General TaKisha Fitzgerald, aggravated robbery charges were dropped. Instead, Stackhouse pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood sentenced him to six years in prison.

The sentence is largely irrelevant since Stackhouse is already serving a life term plus 20 years for the November 2006 robbery and shooting death of truck driver David Z. Lindsey in the parking lot of a Walgreens store on Clinton Highway.

Prior court testimony has shown that Stackhouse was a 19-year-old methamphetamine addict in search of a ride to Florida when he accosted Lindsey, a Walgreens truck driver, at gunpoint and demanded the keys to Lindsey’s personal vehicle. When Lindsey instead pitched Stackhouse the key to his tractor-trailer, Stackhouse gunned him down.

Twelve hours later, the teenager showed up at Lambert’s used car lot. He initially pretended to be interested in test-driving a car and gave Lambert his driver’s license. But Fitzgerald said Stackhouse then brandished the same gun he used to kill Lindsay and pointed it at Lambert.

Lambert, who has a handgun carry permit, whipped out his own weapon and disarmed Stackhouse, who fled.

Lambert told Blackwood Monday that the encounter “changed my life” but gave his seal of approval to the plea deal. Lambert said he simply wanted to ensure that Stackhouse’s criminal record bear proof of what could have been a fatal encounter between the two men.

MEMPHIS — Two people were arrested Friday and a third suspect is being sought after the Clark County Sheriff’s Department raided a home suspected as being used as a methamphetamine lab.

Misty Stacy, 32, and Patricia K. White, 25, were arrested Friday when members of the Clark County Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit, its Detective Division and Indiana State Police meth lab chemists executed a search warrant on a home in the 2000 block of Crone Road in Memphis.

According to a press release from the sheriff’s department, when police raided the home they found the two females along with several items used to manufacture methamphetamine. Police say they also found several baggies of meth on Stacy.

The sheriff’s department believes the meth being produced at the home was being sold in Clark County and in Austin.

Stacy, whose residence was listed as Lexington, Ky., was charged with dealing methamphetamine more than three grams, a class A felony; manufacturing methamphetamine, a B felony; possession of a precursor, a C felony; possession of methamphetamine more than three grams, a C felony; maintaining a common nuisance, a D felony.

White, listed as an Austin resident, was charged with aiding in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, a B felony; possession of a precursor, a C felony; and visiting a common nuisance, an A misdemeanor.

The third suspect, Christopher M. Kiviniemi, 37, who has the residence listed as his home address was not present during the raid. A warrant was issued for Kiviniemi for the same charges as Stacy, according to the press release.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Valley City man has been accused in a federal criminal complaint of selling methamphetamine in North Dakota.

John Hatcher is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver more than 500 grams of meth. Authorities say the conspiracy began in January 2009.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The 26-year-old Hatcher has not been asked to enter a plea.

GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WALA) – Three are arrested on meth charges in George County Mississippi. Authorities say that two of those arrested resulted from a tip they received June 1st.

The George County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Division said they received a tip last week that a white female, Jacquelyn Stringer, was purchasing precursor chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine.

Agents arrived at Stringer’s residence located in the 100 block of Bolen Bryant Road. Investigators discovered an active meth lab. A search of the property further revealed several precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Agents also found five small children in Stringer’s home. Agents contacted the Department of Human Services and the children were removed.

Rocky Snider, 28, of George County was also arrested on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine and child endangerment. Stringer, 23, also of George County, was arrested for possession of precursor chemicals with intent to manufacture and child endangerment.

Both Snider and Stringer were each issued a $15,000 commercial bond through George County Justice Court.

Authorites made a separate narcotic arrest. This one in the Rocky Creek Community near Lucedale on June 2nd. Agents with the George County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Division, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and the Lucedale Police Department Narcotics Division, conducted a traffic stop on Pepper Lane.

A search of the vehicle revealed precursor chemicals, which led to the arrest of William Hester, 39, of George County for possession of precursor chemicals with intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

Hester was issued a $10,000 commercial bond through George County Justice Court.

A possible suspect has been detained by the Sumter Police Department after hazardous drug materials believed used in a methamphetamine lab were found dumped at a local convenience store.

Maj. Alvin Holston said Sumter police detained an individual Sunday afternoon after the department received an anonymous tip about 6 a.m. of a person dumping possible methamphetamine supplies in a trash dumpster behind the Kangaroo Express on 2000 Wedgefield Road. Holston said members of the Sumter Police Department’s narcotics team along with a HAZMAT crew responded to the gas station, which was roped off for nearly four hours. The Sumter Fire Department was also asked to come on the scene to help clean up the dangerous chemicals, according to Holston.